Aldobrandini Loggia

Mercantile loggia

Cardinal Pietro, Pope Clement VIII’s nephew, born Ippolito Aldobrandini, after taking possession of the Meldola estate acquired from the Pio da Carpi family in 1597, invited Giovan Battista Aleotti of Argenta, the esteemed architect of the Este family, to visit the Meldola site.

We know from documents that Argenta visited Meldola on 26 October 1603 to visit the Sacro Monte and the Hospedale del SS.mo Crocefisso, to work on two projects that would later be realised. It is therefore assumed that during one of his visits he commissioned the architectural work that we now identify as the Aldobrandini Double Mercantile Loggia, as well as the city’s first Pavaglione, built in 1609.

For lack of archival references, this attribution is supported by a comparative study of Aleottian architecture, both civil and religious, as well as theatrical-scenic, carried out in Argenta, Ferrara, Parma and Gualtieri. The project is characterised by a double loggia, twelve Doric arches on the ground floor and twenty-four Ionic arches on the upper floor, divided by an elegant entablature with triglyphs and metopes, in which the weapon of the Aldobrandini family is represented: the saw with six stars.

The brickwork, pilasters and capitals, which form the structural and compositional framework of the entire complex, have been covered with a light layer of terracotta-coloured plaster, allowing the underlying compositional texture to be seen. Built to replace the castle walls and moats, and to limit the old market area, now the main square, opening the city to the new culture of the time: the Baroque.

The design proposal borrows from Renaissance classicism – the Roman aqueducts – and projects it into the theatrical and scenographic culture of which Aleotti was a profound connoisseur and inventor. Here he succeeded in admirably combining the economic and commercial needs of the city with a design that matched the culture of the time, giving life to a radical operation of urban renewal, with architectural stylistic features that made the loggia a true work of art.

The large, rhythmic portico on the ground floor housed the “bilancioni”, used for weighing cocoons during the Pavaglione Fair, and gave access to twelve two-storey shops housing butchers, bakers and grain merchants. The upper loggia was once the natural extension of Palazzo del Pretorio, a sort of Uffizi Gallery, embellished with red curtain decorations that opened onto mock balustrades overlooking perspective landscapes, becoming a scenographic curtain and projection of the square in the making.

Unfortunately, the loggia lost its former originality and function with the demolition of the Malatesta Gate and the palace in the 19th century, the interventions of 1839, including the construction of partitions on the first floor, completed by the insertion of large windows in 1942, and the interventions carried out at the end of the last century.

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